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of elections in general. we'll just have to wait to see. >> suarez: marshal coyle of the "national journal," thanks for talking with us. >> my pleasure, ray. more on libya with president obama's speech. we'll be back with that shortly. >> ifill: in a few moments the president will address the nation on american involvement inibya. for those stations just joining us, president obama is speaking from the campus of the national defense university at fort mcnair in washington d.c., ten days after the american military, nato and the arab league began enforcing a no fly zone over libya, the administration is mounting a full-scale defense of an action the president said again today will be limited both in time and scope. newshour political editor david chalian joins me to give
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us a sense of what the president thinks he needs to accomplish tonight. >> he has to answer three fundamental questions, gwen. he has to answer why are we involved in this military action in libya. he has to say what are the next steps now that we're moving into this support role supposedly going forward? and the third question he has to answer is what if qaddafi stays since he has stated the country's policy as qaddafi has to go. >> ifill: does he have to make each of those cases or can he just make one of them tonight, basically making the case for why we're there but not have to make the case as to what happened next. >> most important for him he needs to leave the country with a message that this is not iraq or afghanistan not a third full-blown war in a muslim country the kind his own defense secretary said a president would have to have his head examined if he got involved. >> ifill: it has only been ten days since the first bombs began to fall in libya in an effort to make this coalition work. how much has the president and his administration gotten themselves together?
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you ask this question later. because here is the president of the united states. >> tonight i'd like to update the american people on the international effort that we have led in libya. what we've done, what we plan to do and why this matters to us. i want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform. who once again have acted with courage, professionalism, and patriotism. they have moved with incredible speed and strength. because of them, and our dedicated diplomats, a coalition has been forged and countless lives have been saved. meanwhile as we speak, our troops are supporting our ally japan, leaving iraq to its people, stopping the taliban's
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momentum in afghanistan, and going after al qaeda all across the globe. as commander in chief, i am grateful for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, and to their families. i know all americans share in that sentiment. for generations, the united states of america has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world's many challenges. but when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. that's what's happened in libya over the course of these last six weeks. libya sits directly between
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tunisia and egypt. two nations that inspired the world when their people rose up to take control of their own destiny. for more than four decades, the libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant, moammar qaddafi. he has denied his people freedom. exploited their wealth. murdered opponents at home and abroad and terrorized innocent people around the world. including americans who were killed by libyan agents. last month qaddafi's grip of fear appeared to give way to the promise of freedom. and cities and towns across the country, libyans took to the streets to claim their basic human rights. as one libyan said, for the first time we finally have hope that our nightmare of 40 years will soon be over.
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faced with this opposition, qaddafi began attacking his people. as president, my immediate concern was the safety of our citizens so we evacuated our embassy and all americans who sought our assistance. when we took a series of swift steps in a matter of days to answer qaddafi's aggression. we froze more than $33 billion of qaddafi's regime's assets. joining with other nations and the united nations security council, we broaden broadened our sanctions, imposed an arms embargo and enabled qaddafi and those around him to be held accountable for their crimes. i made it clear that qaddafi had lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to lead. and i said to he needed to step down from power. in the face of the world's condemnation, qaddafi chose to
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escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the libyan people. innocent people were targeted for killing. hospitals and ambulances were attacked. journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. supplies of food and fuel were choked off. water for hundreds of thousands of people in misrata was shut off. cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. military jets and helicopters' gun ships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air. confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, i ordered warships into the mediterranean. european allies declared their willingness to commit
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resources to stop the killing. the libyan opposition and the arab league appealed to the world to save lives in libya. and so at my direction, america led an effort with our allies at the united nations security council to pass an historic resolution that authorized a no fly zone to stop regime's attacks from the air and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the libyan people. ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing or face the consequences. rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance. bearing down on the city of benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women, and children who sought their freedom from fear.
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at this point, the united states and the world faced a choice. qaddafi declared he would show no mercy to his own people. he compared them to rats and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. in the past we had seen him hang civilians in the streets and kill over a thousand people in a single day. now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. we knew that if we wanted... if we waited one more day, benghazi, a city nearly the size of charlotte, would suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world. it was not in our national interest to left that happen. i refused to let that happen.
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and so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of congress, i authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce u.n. security council resolution 1973. we struck regime forces approaching benghazi to save that city and the people within it. we hit qaddafi's troops in neighboring ajdabiya allowing the opposition to drive them out. we hit qaddafi's air defenses which paved the way for a no fly zone. we targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities and we cut off much of their source of supply. and tonight i can report that we have stopped qaddafi's deadly advance. in this effort, the united states has not acted alone. instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition.
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this includes our closest allies, nations like the united kingdom, france, canada, denmark, norway, italy, spain, greece, and turkey. all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. and it includes arab partners like qatar and the united arab emirates who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the libyan people. to summarize then, in just one month, the united states has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advance army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no fly zone with our allies and partners. to lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and
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diplomatic response came together. when people were being brutalize in bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. it took us 31 days. moreover, we've accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that i made to the american people at the outset of our military operations. i said that america's role would be limited and that we would not put ground troops into libya, that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. tonight we are fulfilling that pledge. our most effective alliance, nato, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no fly zone. last night nato decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting libyan civilians.
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this transfer from the united states to nato will take place on wednesday. going forward, the lead in enforcing the no fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners. and i am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on qaddafi's remaining forces. in that effort, the united states will play a supporting role including intelligence, logistical support, search-and-rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. because of this transition to a broader nato-based coalition, the risk of this operation to our military and to american tax payers will be reduced significantly. so for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, i want to be clear. the united states of america
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has done what we said we would do. that's not to say that our work is complete. in addition to our nato responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of libya who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. we will safeguard the more than 33 billion dollars that was frozen from the qaddafi regime so that it's available to rebuild libya. after all, the money doesn't belong to qaddafi or to us. it belongs to the libyan people. we'll make sure they receive it. tomorrow secretary clinton will go to london where she will meet with the libyan opposition and consult with more than 30 nations. these discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure qaddafi while also supporting a transition to the future that the libyan people deserve. because while our military
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mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a libya that belongs not to a dictator but to its people. now despite the success of our efforts over the past week, i know that some americans continue to have questions about our efforts in libya. qaddafi has not yet stepped down from power. until he does, libya will remain dangerous. moreover, even africa daffy does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. the transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the libyan people will be a difficult task. while the united states will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community. more importantly, a task for the libyan people themselves.
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in fact, much of the debate in washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to libya. on the one hand some question why america should intervene at all. even in limited ways. in this distant land. they argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government. america should not be expected to police the world. particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home. it's true. that america cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. but that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. in this particular country, libya, at this particular moment, we were faced with the
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prospect of violence on a horrific scale. we had a unique ability to stop that violence. an international mandate for action. a broad coalition prepared to join us. the support of arab countries. and a plea for help from the libyan people themselves. we also had the ability to stop qaddafi's forces in their tracks without putting american troops on the ground. to brush aside america's responsibility as a leader and, more profoundly, our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. the united states of america is different. and as president, i refuse to
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wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action. moreover, america has an important strategic interest in preventing qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him. a massacre would have driven thousands of additional refuse refugees across libya's borders putting enormous strains on the peaceful yet fragile transition in egypt and tunisia. the democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. the risk of the united nations security council would have been shown to be little more than empty words crippling that institution's future corrode iblt to upload global peace and security. so while i will never minimize
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the cost involved in military action, i am convinced that a failure to act in libya would have carried a far greater price for america. now just as there are those who have argued against intervention in libya, there are others who have suggested that we broadened our military mission beyond the task of protecting the libyan people and do whatever it takes to bring down qaddafi and usher in a new government. of course, there is no question that libya and the world would be better off with qaddafi out of power. i, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal. and will actively pursue it through non-military means. but broadening our military mission to include regime change would be aistake. the task that i assigned our forces-- to protect the libyan
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people from immediate danger and to establish a no fly zone-- carries with it a u.n. mandate and international support. it's also what the libyan opposition asked us to do. if we tried to overthrow qaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. we would likely have to put u.s. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission. or risk killing many civilians from the air. the dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. so would the costs. and our share of the responsibility for what comes next. to be blunt, we went down that road in iraq. thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about iraq's future. but regime change there took eight years, thousands of
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american and iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. that is not something we can afford to repeat in libya. as the bulk of our military efforts ratchets down, what we can do and will do is support the aspirations of the libyan people. we have intervened to stop a massacre. and we will work with our allies and partners to maintain the safety of civilians. we will deny the regime arms, cut off its supplies of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when qaddafi leaves power. it may not happen overnight. as a badly weakened qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. but it should be clear to those around qaddafi and to every libyan that history is not on qaddafi's side.
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with the time and space that we have provided f the libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny. and that is how it should be. let me close by addressing what this action says about the use of america's military power and america's broader leadership in the world under my presidency. as commander in chief, i have no greater responsibility than keeping this country safe. and no decision weighs on me more than when to deploy our men and women in uniform. i've made it clear that i will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests. that's why we're going after al qaeda wherever they seek a foothold. that is why we continue to
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fight in afghanistan, even as we have ended our combat mission in iraq and removed more than 100,000 troops from that country. there will be times though when our safety is not directly threatened but our interests and our values are. sometimes the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security. spochbding to natural disasters, for example, or preventing genocide and keeping the peace, ensuring regional security and maintaining the flow of commerce. these may not be america's problems alone but they are important to us. they're problems worth solving. in these circumstances we know that the united states is the world's most powerful nation and will often be called upon to help.
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in such cases, we should not be afraid to act. but the burden of action should not be america's alone. as we have in libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action because contrary to the claims of some, american leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well, to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all. that's the kind of leadership we've shown in libya. of course even when we act as part of a coalition, the risks
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of any military action will be high. those risks were realized when one of our planes malfunctioned over libya. yet when one of our airmen parachuted to the ground in a country whose leader has so often demonized the united states in a region that has such a difficult history with our country, this american did not find enemies. instead he was met by people who embraced him. one young libyan who came to his aid said, we are your friends. we are so grateful to those men who are protecting the skies. this voice is just one of many in a region where a new generation is refusing to be denied their rights and opportunities any longer. yes, this change will make the world more complicated for a time.
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progress will be uneven. and change will come differently to different countries. there are places like egypt where this change will inspire us. and raise our hopes. and then there will be places like iran where change is fiercely suppressed. the dark forces of civil conflict and sectarian war will have to be averted and difficult political and economic concerns will have to be addressed. the united states will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. only the people of the region can do that. but we can make a difference. i believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms.
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our opposition to violence directed at one's own people, our support for a set of universal rights including the freedom from people to express themselves and choose their leaders, our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people. born as we are out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the middle east and north africa and that young people are leading the way. because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the united states. ultimately it is that faith, those ideals that are the true measure of american leadership.
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my fellow americans, i know that at a time of upheaval overseas when the news is filled with conflict and change, it can be tempting to turn away from the world. and as i've said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home. that must always be our north star. the ability of our people to reach their potential. to make wise choices with our resources. to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a well spring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear. but let us also remember that for generations, we hve done the hard work of protecting our own people as well as millions around the globe. we have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter if more of mankind
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can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity. tonight, let us give thanks to the americans who are serving through these trying times and the coalition that is carrying our effort forward. and let us look to the future with confidence and hope not only for our own country but for all those yearning for freedom around the world. thank you. god bless you. and may god bless the united states of america. ( applause ) thank you. >> ifill: that was president obama addressing the nation tonight on the crisis in libya. he spoke at the national defense university in washington d.c.. we'll have reaction to the speech on the newshour tomorrow. i'm gwen ifill. >> brown: and i'm geoffrey brown. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. thank you and good night.
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PBS March 28, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm PDT

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